Why pro bono? The simple answer is because you want to. Committing to pro bono is a choice you make alongside decisions like how much holiday to give, whether to award sabbaticals and how to carbon offset.
But it is also important to acknowledge that entering a pro bono partnership with a not-for-profit organisation is mutually beneficial. It’s not about you being Lord or Lady Bountiful helping a group in need - both sides stand to gain massively.
Passion Partnership is a community interest company that matches PR agencies with non-profits needing pro bono work. It paired literacy charity Bookmark Reading with Lexington Communications and its CEO Emily Cook is delighted with the relationship.
“As an agency, we are committed to enacting positive societal change, and since being matched, our relationship with Bookmark is emblematic of this. For the past year, our consultants have worked to successfully promote Bookmark and the brilliant work they do.”
What pro bono isn’t
It isn’t the all-too-typical CSR day out, where you descend on a charity for a team-building exercise to paint a room à la ‘DIY SOS’ and get a cute photo op for the socials. That may have its place, but PR teams can offer so much more by using their professional, creative skills to build genuine relationships which help not-for-profits flourish.
Few small, third-sector organisations can afford communications help and your time and skills are worth more than money. One organisation that is benefiting from a pairing with a PR company said the value of the agency time was equivalent to three times their annual income.
Creative with the gloves off
Creativity is our lifeblood and working as part of a “pop-up” team on a pro bono partnership - possibly unfettered by SMART objectives - is hugely liberating. It’s also a boost for staff development. Whilst the quality of the work should never be compromised, people working on these projects can learn new skills in an environment which feels less pressured.
It's often the tricky juggling of stretched resources which is the enemy of pro bono working, but why not reframe these hours as ‘learning and development’?
Tamsin Tierney, group managing director, healthcare at PR agency BCW UK at BCW Global, describes the benefits of pro bono work: “At BCW healthcare we’re passionate about empowering people to improve their individual or collective health and so much of the work we do is through the lens of challenging health inequities and helping to create an environment where everyone has a fair chance to achieve their best health. We recognise that we have an important role to play in giving back to the communities we’re often representing”
The ability to attract the brightest and the best is critical to having a successful business. And a growing proportion of staff care about a company’s social engagement - the Caffeine Partnership’s 2023 Employee Pride Survey found 34% want companies to play an active role in reducing social inequality - up 8% from the previous year.
Being able to walk the talk - showcasing your pro bono projects - can tip the balance in your favour during the recruitment process. Particularly for younger staff, having the opportunity to genuinely make a difference can be more attractive than other tangible benefits.
Sing it loud
Pro bono working is mutually beneficial and that is definitely worth shouting about it. Sharing the amazing work you are doing together in your partnership benefits everyone - it boosts the non-profit’s profile (hopefully increasing donations and building valuable connections along the way) and, let’s be honest, it makes you look good, too. But you should pat yourself on the back because you have made a sincere and real difference to an organisation which is working to improve society in some way.
Article written by Fiona Murray, a volunteer champion with Passion Partnership
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